After booking our tickets to Sri Lanka, we promise ourselves the following; we are most certainly going to enjoy this country in a relaxed way. And this means skipping certain locations and sights. Nothing is worse than having to stick to a tight schedule with 3 little kids (of 7, 5 and 2 years old). I’m certain that just being there is going to be a great experience. Of course, we want to visit some good spots, but relaxing is our top priority. That’s why I’m happy to share our “relaxed” route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids with you guys.
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with little kids: We start in Negombo
With this idea in our heads we start our trip in Negombo. About a half hour drive by taxi from the airport in Colombo. Negombo is a long road with restaurants and hotels. There is lot being built and it’s not the prettiest route. But it’s lovely to relax for three days at the edge of the pool of our hotel Ronny Cottage.
From here we take a taxi inland and after a 2-hour drive, we end up at the train station Veyangoda. Without a care in the world we sit here and wait for half an hour until the train arrives for Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. While we get on the train, we soon notice we are not the only ones wanting to go to Kandy. It turns out to be a national holiday and the half of Sri Lanka is on their way to the capital. The train is packed! Not like morning rush hour with the NS but really, really packed!! We are in the middle portal with our three large travel bags, buggy, three little kids and 15 other Sri Lankan people. We can’t move an inch. It’s rather impressive too, especially for the kids. Although they seem more concerned by the fact that the train doesn’t have any doors so we could easily fall out.
Luckily, some people get out on the way, so we get to sit for the last 2 hours of the 4-hour journey. Without air-conditioning that is to say, and still rather packed. Meanwhile we are being served by Sri Lankan people that are trying to sell us their local delicatessens. We kindly decline.
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids: we are in Kandy
In Kandy, our hotel is a 20 minute drive from the center of town. It lies against a hill and has a nice pool for the kids. From here, we take a tuk-tuk the next day and visit the temple with “the tooth”. Fun to see, but it’s not as impressive in comparison to the temples of Thailand or Bali. The kids get to offer some flower pedals and love to see daddy cross the street in a sarong.
We visit the Botanical Gardens too. Our expectations are not that high for this park but as soon as we walk in we are pleasantly surprised. It’s stunning! You can see all kinds of palm trees and tropical plants here. It’s rather large too and nice and cool to relax in after our long trip through Kandy. The Botanical Gardens is really recommended in the afternoon, especially with little kids. A lot of locals like visiting the park too, which is a fun sight to see.
Kandy is located beautifully in the hills, but we find it rather busy because of traffic.
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids: Ella
After spending two nights in Kandy, we travel on to Ella. For the first 3 hours we grab a taxi and take the train for the last part. The landscape we pass through is beautiful. Very green and hilly. Ella is sight for sore eyes after visiting Kandy. It’s a small village, lying in the mountains with nothing but nice little restaurants, and little hotels. Although, everything is there for the foreign traveler. But we do enjoy our western hamburgers and pizza that they serve here.
In the first restaurant we have dinner, we meet a very nice boy that serves us. He offers to take us on a tour of the area the next day. He picks us up in his tiny car in the morning at our hotel and takes us to a tea plantation first. Fun to see, although the factory where they usually dry the tea isn’t working this day. But the tour we get from the manager is so entertaining, we are happy we didn’t miss this one.
The view from the factory is amazing too, the boy brings us to an old bridge after this and finally to his house. There, his wife and mother in law make us a lunch while our kids are surprised by the fact that their little boy of 4 years old is riding a pink bike. We explain to them that the little boy is happy he even has a bike and the color doesn’t really matter here in Sri Lanka. The boy doesn’t have any other toys but does have something our kids don’t. It’s a little calf of not even a week old. He is very proud of it and our girls hang around it curious.
The experience of having lunch with these people is just fantastic, the people are so hospitable to just invite us into their home. He could have just dropped us at a restaurant, but he didn’t, very special!
When we are in Ella, he does ask us to let us out 100 meters before we reach the restaurant where he works. He doesn’t want his boss to know he is doing any odd jobs. And we don’t want to cause him any trouble of course so we get out and walk the last 100 meters to our hotel.
Little Adams Peak
On day 2 in Ella we do “Little Adams Peak”. We have a tuk-tuk drop us at the start of the hiking path and are a little worried the hike isn’t too long and rough on the girls, but there was no need. We walk up there very relaxed and see all kinds of lizards and squirrels on our way. When we reach the top, we have a beautiful view over the mountains. Very beautiful indeed and a perfect trip with kids. Altogether, with a large stop on the way, the hike takes us an hour and a half or two hours. We do have Jule (2) in an improvised carrier for most of the time (yes, we left our proper carrier in a tuk-tuk, very smart ;).
As far as I’m concerned, Ella should not be missing on your list for a round trip through Sri Lanka with little kids!
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids: surfing in Arugam Bay
Meanwhile, we are in Sri Lanka for a week already and are looking forward to our next destination. Which is Arugam Bay on the east side. This is the surfing capital of Sri Lanka during the summer months. We booked a little hotel there on the beach and very happy when we arrive. It’s incredibly hot, about 40 degrees, but it’s very doable in the shadow. Arugam Bay has the surf vibe we are looking for.
Right in front of our door, the waves just roll in and on the other side of the bay they have baby-beach. There they have little waves and we teach our girls to grab their first waves. In Arugam Bay we enjoy our holiday to the fullest; palm trees, surf, BBQ on the beach and lots of fruit shakes. The girls follow a yoga class and on our sixth day of our stay here we go on safari to Kumana Park. This is a lot less touristy than Yala according to the booklets. In Kumana we see elephants, crocodiles, buffalos, peacocks, monkeys and lots of different birds. A beautiful place and certainly worth the trouble on your round trip through Sri Lanka with kids!
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids: more beach on Hirikiteya Beach
After Arugam Bay, we move south and visit the more hidden pearl of Sri Lanka, which is Hiriketiya Beach. This is a bay shaped like a horseshoe with palm trees on each side. A breathtaking place and it doesn’t get any more tropical than this. The perfect waves roll in here too and we decide to take it to the water again. The beach has a couple of stray dogs that run away with the floaties of Jule and the bikini of a none suspecting tourist.
Aside from that, the place is just lovely, with a couple of fantastic restaurants. This place is rather small and not really discovered by tourists. The Australian owner of our hotel Salt House tells us it’s more busy during winter though. This hotel is really recommended by the way!
Route for a round trip through Sri Lanka with kids: our last week is spent in Mirissa, Unawatuna & Hikkduwa
We spend the last week of our holiday in the coastal towns Mirissa, Unawatuna and Hikaduwa in the south-west. We are there in August which is low season in this part of Sri Lanka. Which means it’s a little windy and rains every now and then. It doesn’t bother us though, although the sea doesn’t look very good taking a dip in. It’s often a little cloudy too. The villages are fine themselves but for us, our stay here isn’t the highlight of our trip. Perhaps if you stay here in October and April, it’s a different experience because the sun is shining more often and the sea is more inviting.
From Unawatuna we visit the little town called Galle which is very fun. Its as if you step into a different world, with paved streets and buildings from the former century. They have all kinds of nice diners and shops too. In Unawatuna we stay in a hotel that has a beautiful name and history: Nooit Gedacht Heritage Hotel.
In Merissa we try to see sea turtles again but because of the strong current and wind they are nowhere to be seen. This is a bit of a let down but as we are there, a couple of Sri Lankan kids are getting swimming lessons in sea and this was very fun to watch for our kids.
Our round trip through Sri Lanka has turned out to be a fantastic experience! If I can give any advice, I would try and stay inland longer next time. And I wouldn’t visit all of the villages in the south-west (Mirissa, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa). One is more than enough, and 3 days is long enough too.
Sri Lanka is less developed than say, Thailand, but its nature is rally beautiful. Very green and a great country to spend a few weeks in! Tip: Don’t forget your visa for Sri Lanka before you go.
This article is written by our regular guest-blogger Marieke. She lives in Zandvoort with Thijs and their 3 daughters Jade (8), Bente (6) and Jule (2). Marieke and her family love to travel and try putting some money aside to go on a long trip every few years with the kids. In daily life Marieke works as a journalist for RTV Noord-Holland.
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